Professors Kaitlin Woolley and Ayelet Fischback from the University of Chicago tested whether gym goers were more motivated by the workout process or workout results. The found that gym goers depended on extrinsic motivation (or the outcomes of a good work out) when they were planning to go the gym.
However, during the workout, intrinsic portions – i.e. how it felt at the moment, were more motivating.
This is one of the reasons why we are extremely poor at predicting our happiness at a future job. We greatly overestimate the power of extrinsic motivators like salary, bonuses and status when we are searching for a job and don’t look enough at the stuff that will make us happy when we get there. These typically include a great manager/team, learning and an environment with goodwill.
Doug Conant of Campbell Soup wrote 30,000 thank you letters in his time as CEO. They had a wonderful, positive effect on the organization. And, it is likely that employees of felt more rewarded by such gestures than extrinsic motivators.
When designing work environments, it is worth remembering that our deepest motivator is our connection to others. As Viktor Frankl said, our salvation lies with love and through love. – Dan Ariely (paraphrased)
Source: Payoff by Dan Ariely, The Intrinsic Motivation study